Powers of the Parent: Behavior Correction over Discipline

When I was a single man, yet to be married, and yet to be a parent I thought I had a pretty good grip on what it would take to “discipline” my future children.

Yes discipline was the word and it seemed pretty simple.  Be stern, stand your ground and they will ultimately comply.  No results, yell a little louder, get a more serious looking face.  Maybe growl a little.

Now as a parent of two things appear very different.  I have my wife to thank for my openness to change regarding behavior correction.   We don’t always “win” every battle, but we’re trucking along fairly well.

There are certainly the hellish mornings of “No.” “NO.” “NO!” “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” coming from my two year old.  His shoes and coat looking like a straight jacket and cement boots in his young eyes.  We dig deep, take a breath and usually find a way.  Sometimes it feels like a hostage negotiation.   Yet, in the end we get him dressed, settle his behavior and have him and his brother settled into the carseat for the ride to the sitter.

So what’s the big deal then?  It’s not as easy as it might have once seemed.  Behavior modification is a science it takes a bit of finesse.  You can be stern, you can “stand your ground,” but ultimately you have to find a reason for the child to want to comply.

Here are the ________ things we use on a regular basis to curb behavior issues.

Extinction – This can be best described as “the silent treatment.”  It has a very specific purpose and must be used properly however.  Imagine a child is intent on having a certain snack and has begun a meltdown of behavior when told they won’t get it.  Instead of trying to redirect, negotiate or otherwise ‘push’ them harder you just stop and try to end their outburst through silence.  Sometimes this is in the form of “I will talk to you when you are calm,” and other times this will look like hardset ignoring.  I mean no talking, no eye contact.  They become invisible to you until they calm themselves down.

The idea here is that you are not acknowledging the bad behavior and “rewarding” them by responding.

This / Then That – This one is great for diaper changes, snacks, TV time, and toy time.  If there’s something the child wants you basically withhold it until they complete a task you wish them to comply with.  For instance, “Diaper change first, then you get snack.” or “Eat two noodles from your plate, then you get milk.”

The key here to to NEVER CAVE IN.  If they don’t comply with the desired behavior you do not award them the item. EVER.  Set this precedent and then you will see compliance as consistently as you use this method.

Regular Positive Reinforcement – Always acknowledge good behavior.  ALWAYS.  Thank them.  Say, “Thank you for eating your food nicely,” “Nice job letting me change your diaper.  What a big boy!”

Do this even after that horrible knock down drag out screaming tantrum.  Once they settle and you get your desired outcome, acknowledge that they’ve finally done the right thing.  It’s going to be hard. VERY HARD.  You’ll be exhausted.  You’ll possibly be angry.   Set that aside and say “Good job!”

This is the best way to build intrinsic motivation.  When they feel good, feel appreciated and feel acknowledged for finally settling down and completing the desired activity, the tantrum times will begin to shorten.

Just remember the ultimate goal of all actions you take regarding child behavior.  You want the child to change their behavior.   Being punitive for the sake of being punitive is ridiculous.  Then you’ve simply reached a point of playing a game of “I’m stronger than you.”

It’s like making an exam for a math class.  What should the goal of the teacher be?  For all the students to know as much as they can about the math topic.  It is not about seeing how many questions you can stump them on.  “You got 85% of them right and this what was wrong and why,” and not “You got 15% of the questions wrong.  Did you even study?”

We want our children to be receptive to correction and be open to change.  I certainly would like my boys to be more worried to disappoint me with their behavior than to fear having something taken away.  Once they lose the privilege they have nowhere else to go.  Zero incentive to rebound back.

I will not utter the words: “That’s it you just lost your dessert.  That was sassy.”  In that case I would end their opportunity for change and for learning.  They would not be able to make a correction and move forward positively.

Think otherwise?  Tell me about it.  I’d love to hear someone else’s take on this.

 

Here kid. Use MY favorite toys!

So lately I’ve been wondering what topic to breach as the frenzied and frenetic father.  I brainstormed a few ideas and landed on things such as the limp noodle toddler, becoming your own parents, and sharing your old toys with your kids.

It’s the last one that really held on for this post.  So here goes:

I’m a nerd.  I like toys and puzzles.  Comics and video games.  I have stuff when from when I was younger tucked away to be shared with my own children.  I’m not talking special edition mint packaging SEALED action figures from the 70s and 80s.  I mean toys that I LOVED to play with.  Things that stood the battle tests, didn’t break down and were still found in my parents basement years later.

Now is the time to dust them off and start introducing them to my children.   My oldest is just 2 years old and my youngest is 8 months.  These two boys will be educated in the way of classic toys.  If they let me.

With the advent of smartphones it seems that just about everything has to be digitized, electronic, and motion activated.  Will my Lincoln Logs, Construx, Hot Wheels/Matchbox Cars, and Duplos hold up against the competition?  Well if you ask me, and others my age, you’ll probably get a resounding yes.  What I want to know is will it work with my sons?

My oldest son is some sort of dexterous prodigy and well frankly I think he can handle the likes of many of the great building set toys.  It may be a few more years but I know I scored an Erector set of my dad’s when I was little and it led me to a devotion to Legos that I still have today.

I want critical thinkers and problem solvers.  Millenials are being called the “Do it for me” generation and I just can’t imagine my sons having to be tagged in that category.  Let’s get out the physical paper books, and out come the Duplos and building blocks.  Away with the battery operated stuff.

It’s time to play.

depth of field photography of p l a y wooden letter decors on top of beige wooden surface
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

 

Food for Child

Feeding your child.  Important.  Required.

There are obvious differences in the roles mothers and fathers play in the household while raising children.  One thing is for certain however; your child must eat.

We are a baby formula household so that job can be shared by both me and my wife.  I have to say that feeding your child is one of the most rewarding (although often frustrating) tasks you can do as a parent.

“Evening times with a newborn can be a bit chaotic while trying to juggle feedings, diaper changes, laundry, dinner and even just saying hi to your significant other. One thing I’ve found helpful is to let Dad and baby have their cuddle time.” – Sarah Kulchar, 6 Moments You Need to Let Dad Have With Baby

In the early stages its going to allow you to spend some great time to be close holding your child.  You get to make a connection as provider to them as well.  They need you for EVERYTHING.  This is a time to give some of your time to them.

Eventually your child is going to grow up (way too fast!).  Solids will come into play.  You can watch them excitedly open their mouth as you spoon some strange fruit or vegetable goop into their mouth.  Of course you try not to make a yuck face as you encourage them to give this new taste a try.

You then get to watch them as they learn their hands and fingers, pulling a Cheerio up to their mouth, or a cracker.

Later on you get to see them make choices.  They can tell you they want “Piece” (peas), or “Crates” (carrots).

If you’re still in this stage, don’t let the time get by you.  You may soon be fighting a two year old about eating something he or she has loved for months!

I can only wait for the day when my son says he wants more “Dragon Roll” or “Creme Brule.”  But now is not that time. Now is the time for letting him have another spoonful of mashed sweet potato.  Or not worrying about a few cheerios stuck to his forehead as he experiments with getting food to his mouth.

Both my 7 month old and my 2 year old are messy eaters.  On the flip side, I’m a 10 napkin a meal kind of person.  You can see the anxiety this often lends itself to.

Take a tip from me.  Relax.  Get a case of baby wipes to clean things up with and do your best dad; help feed the kids!